MyCampus: on the frontline

MyCampus helpdesk staff[/box]

And so an email landed in my inbox; “would you like to earn some money over Freshers Week as MyCampus support? ‘No’, was the initial answer in my head, until I remembered my place as a postgraduate student at a university which meets every request and every outcry with “we’ve got nae money!”. “Dear Sir/Madam, I am writing to enquire…” soon followed thereafter.

The training day, more like ‘training afternoon’ and indeed ‘three hours training’ was, of course unthorough and in in the main unhelpful for the task that we were about to undertake. The university would not have been pleased, no doubt, that far less than the required number of students had taken them up on their generous offer of £6.50 and hour to be recipients of the ire and abuse which almost every student understandably has vented at the entire process. Still, it is an even worse sign when MyCampus Golden Boy, a besuited Gavin Lee has troubles working his way around the old system, and points us to videos hidden in remote parts of the website for any more information if it was needed. Training days usually exist, in my experience, as a hands-on troubleshooting and run-through of every problem and how to handle it; not to be sat down for an hour in front of a presentation. However, each of us were duly handed six or so sheets of advice about how the process worked and how to remedy the situation. Most answers turned out to be ‘log a support call’, in other words to send an SOS to MyCampus engineers to fix badly broken and ineffective parts of the process.

“It was not uncommon to have a queue that went round the entire Reading Room” (photo: Jani Helle)

“It was not uncommon to have a queue that went round the entire Reading Room” (photo: Jani Helle)

Within the first couple of days queues were short, but nothing prepared our crew of half a dozen ‘Student Guides’ with high-viz jackets for the onslaught which was about to commence. In reality most of us would have a decent shout at claiming repetitive strain disorder from the amount of times a sharply-worded Support Call would have to be logged. It was not uncommon to have a queue that went round the entire Reading Room, if not longer; and to wait up to an hour to get assistance. At every level of the process there were problems. These ranged from your standard ‘unable to financially register’, to the truly bizarre – one student could not continue his registration because the system had incorrectly stated he was a female. It became routine to advise people that the eight-hour response time when logging support requests would not be hit, with some enquiries taking three or four days to even be looked at. This is not to say things were resolved when the MyCampus technical support answered the calls – it was often incorrect, and tried whenever possible to pass the buck to Advisors of Studies who were often poorly trained, if at all.

I felt sorry for some of those put in charge of the operation. Several university workers were heading up the team, and at times were helpless to sort out the situation made by the MyCampus department. Perhaps there is the need to put a positive spin and a bit of PR on this, but I do not think more than 5,000 support calls in a week constitutes teething trouble in a system already condemned for being overpriced and under-thought. There is no doubt in my mind that the current Direct Debit problem facing many students who pay tuition fees is a direct result of university systems not working in the way that it should. Perhaps a cynical view, but the way in which MyCampus and Student Services is currently being organised lends itself to that of a paper-trail, with nobody being held accountable and none of the important questions being answered. If any lessons are to be learned from this, it is not to trial a programme to thousands of students before ensuring that it actually works, and to have a technical support team that is capable of handling the large volume of error support needed rather than to collapse entirely, leaving student assistants completely stranded. Perhaps this is common sense, but the MyCampus team on £3.75 million in salaries knew that already, right?

Of course when it came to my own registration I was entirely unsurprised that I couldn’t do it either. “Dear MyCampus support…”


For comments and discussion on this article, see the page for our MyCampus December feature.


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